I maintain cloth diapering is easy, good for the wallet, great for the environment and the best choice for babies. If you start out cloth diapering with good quality diapers and covers, treat them well, and develop a solid wash routine, cloth diapering should be a breeze! However, the best of intentions can go astray and, having done some troubleshooting in recent days, I thought I’d share a list of what I see as the most common cloth diapering mistakes.
Mistake #1: Not buying the right size of diapers or covers.
As tempting as it is, don’t buy the size larger than you need in the hopes of “making do” until they fit. Large diapers do not fit small babies and you will need to get larger covers to fit over these large diapers. By the time you are done, your baby will have more than “back” — she’ll have a caboose the size of a watermelon! Or, if you didn’t buy larger covers to fit over the massive diaper butt, edges of the diaper will be exposed at the waist and leg holes and cause moisture (pee, Folks! PEE!!) to wick onto your baby’s clothing. If you use pockets and try to cheap out, buying a size too big, you’ll probably find poop leaks out of the leg holes — this is not a fault of the diaper construction! Poor, soggy baby!
Trust me, you and your baby will be happier if you buy the diapers that will fit. But don’t misunderstand me! I still think newborn covers/diapers (for the <10lb range) should be avoided — unless you have a preemie or multiples, they will fit for about a week! 😉
Mistake #2: Overusing diaper cream or balm and not protecting the diaper.
Do not use diaper rash cream at every diaper change. Use a rash cream or balm only when needed. Damp skin will look a little red — this redness is not a rash. Overuse of diaper creams and balms can cause build-up on cloth diapers, leading to repelling issues and decreased absorbency — this is especially true of creams containing zinc oxide, beeswax, or petroleum jelly. If you do need to make regular use of a cream or balm, use a paper/flushable liner to protect the diaper fabric. If things look like they might go rashy, I like to use a bit of homemade diaper balm — it’s easy to make and very affordable! If you do end up with cream build-up on your diapers, Susie has a great post about how to fix them.
Mistake #3: Using extra detergent will not get your diapers cleaner.
Figure out how much detergent you need to use with your washing machine — all machines are a bit different! If you have a HE front-loader, you will need to use less than with a top-loader. If you use Nellie’s powder, you may need to use a bit more than if you use a different powder. Some detergents may need to be soaked in warm water before using in a front-loader. Other detergents may work better in hard water than soft water. Guidelines are just that — guidelines. There is no fast and hard rule about how much detergent you will need with your machine.
Also, front-loader washing routines may need some extra tweaking, due to their efficient waster usage. Some people need to manually add a few extra litres of water to their machine — with my machine, I run a delicate cold/cold cycle in place of a standard cold/cold rinse cycle. The delicate cycle doesn’t spin out as much of the water and leaves the diapers heavier when the machine weighs the load for the hot/cold wash cycle. An extra rinse gets rid of any remaining bubbles.
Tip: If diapers smell clean when dry but poopy when wet, you are not using enough detergent — start using a little more. If they smell fine when dry, but like ammonia as soon as they are wet, you are using too much and have detergent build-up. Running a strip-wash on the diapers should fix the problem.
Mistake #4: Baby diapers do not need “Baby Detergent”.
Baby detergents are not (NOT!!) good for cloth diapers. They typically have scent, optical brighteners, fabric softeners, enzymes, or any combination of the above. All of these things can cause issues with cloth diapers, ranging from build-up to rashy bums. Look for a detergent with only a few ingredients — my current detergent only contains five and I can pronounce them all! 🙂 Once you find something that works for your diapers, consider using it for all your laundry!
Mistake #5: Buying a diaper “system” does not always make things easier.
Don’t buy a “system”. As appealing as it might be to buy 24 of one kind of diaper, you will probably have better success over the long run with a variety of diapers. Babies’ shapes change as they grow and what fits great at 2 months might not fit as well when they are 5 months. Also, if you’ve invested in one-size (OS) diapers, these may not fit for the entire span from birth to toilet training. Many seem to be outgrown around the 18 month mark, or the elastic/velcro wears out around the 2 year point. OS diapers undergo a lot of wear and tear — you may be left with diapers in the end that don’t fit well, are quite worn, and have little resale value. Another concern with buying a “system” is that occasionally manufacturers have problems with batches of diapers. If your diapers are affected, you could conceivably be left without your diapers when you need them most.
By diversifying your stash, you can spread the wear and tear over a variety of OS diapers, sized diapers (fitteds, pockets, prefolds), and covers — ensuring that you always have something that will work great for each specific situation. Lessening the wear and tear over a wider variety of styles will also increase the resale value when you are ready to part with your stash. You can get up to 2/3 of the new retail cost on a well-cared-for diaper — this is an important consideration for me. 🙂
Mistake #6: A great deal on used diapers is not always a great deal — buyer beware!!
Buying used diapers is a fabulous way to avoid the pricey start-up costs of higher-end diapers — I have purchased many gently-used diapers myself. It’s a wonderful way to try out a new brand and see if it is worth the investment. However, if you are buying used diapers at a swap or off of Kijiji, be wary of buying large lots from a single seller. What looks like a great deal might be a waste of your money. When you buy used diapers you are purchasing any potential problems that may be lurking within — build-up, “diaper stink”, bad elastic, diapers from a known “bad batch” from a retailer with delaminating PUL… the list goes on. Also avoid buying “Made in China” off-brand new or used diapers — they have a terrible track record for PUL issues and little customer support. Try to buy used diapers in small batches from a variety of sellers, unless you know the person selling them and how they care for their stash.
I’m sure that once I hit “post” on this I will think of a half dozen more common mistakes, but these are the ones I’ve encountered over the past week and are therefore freshest in my mind. Cloth diapering really is easy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a bit of legwork involved! Just as with anything else, it pays to do your research and explore your options.